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Diversity and Inclusion Is Harder Than You Think

Posted by Dave Coodin on Wed, Feb 27, 2019

Inclusion 1

Over the past couple of years, it’s been impossible not to notice the number of clients asking for diversity and inclusion training. Chalk it up to recent updates to provincial labour legislation or to #metoo and #timesup. Either way, the change has been palpable, and seems driven by a genuine concern to start taking these issues seriously.

That’s the good news. As a learning designer, I have found it heartening to be able to produce training that might, in some small way, make a real difference in people’s professional and personal lives.

Not that it’s easy. Trying to change workplace behaviour means designing for empathy. In other words, we’re not simply informing people about official protocols for reporting harassment. We’re empowering them to feel confident speaking up.

We’re training them to recognize harassment when they experience or witness it. And, perhaps most crucially, we’re asking them to think critically about their own behaviours and to consider, for instance, how comments or jokes made with benign intent can have a devastating impact on someone else’s life.

The bad news? It’s that diversity and inclusion training, no matter how robust and well-intentioned, isn’t enough. Too often, diversity and inclusion are treated as topics in their own silo, training that can be taken, discussed, and forgotten. As learning designers, it’s up to us to make diversity and inclusion a part of ALL training, no matter the topic.

So, what does this mean? Here are some questions you should be asking yourself to create eLearning that is truly diverse and inclusive:

Is my course accessible to everyone?

Does your eLearning course conform to the latest accessibility standards? Is everything in your course, including colour tones and interactive exercises, accessible? If not, time to rethink your design.

What do my characters look and sound like?

It’s old hat now that an all-white cast of characters reflects badly on you and your organization (or at least it should be). Too frequently, however, I see eLearning that makes tokenistic use of “minority” characters. Particularly frustrating is when training treats a given culture as monolithic, or relies on stereotype as a quick shorthand.

Ask yourself whether your training positions white characters as the “norm” at the centre of the experience, with others there simply to signal diversity. True diversity means putting non-white characters front and centre into main roles, and recognizing that these characters have value beyond the way they look.

Am I using language and imagery that is inviting to everyone?

Pronouns matter. And gender diversity means more that making sure to say “he or she.” Think about how your language will be received by non-binary or transgender learners. Similarly, are your cultural references aimed at a majoritarian audience, or will they allow all learners to see themselves in your course? Think about whether you are telling all learners that they belong here.

Diversity and inclusion training is crucial, and I only hope that it continues to grow. But let’s not allow ourselves to forget that we are sending cues, sometimes very subtle ones, to our learners all the time. True diversity and inclusion means being aware of those cues, and using them to create learning that is inviting and accessible to everyone.

Topics: Workplace Sexual Harassment, sexual harassment, eLearning, Digital Learning, inclusion

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